Japan arrests Chinese fishing boat captains

TOKYO Fri Aug 5, 2011 8:17am EDT

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Coastguard on Friday arrested two Chinese fishing boat captains whose vessels it said were operating without permission in waters Japan considers its exclusive economic zone.

The incident, which occurred 330 km (200 miles) northwest of Japan's western coast city of Wajima, follows an arrest last year of a Chinese trawler captain after his boat collided with Japanese patrol vessels near disputed islands, triggering a prolonged diplomatic row between Asia's two biggest economies.

The two fishing boats were operating about 1,800 km (1,125 miles) northeast of the contested isles, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, and the Coastguard said the development appeared to be a straightforward illegal fishing case.

"The area happens to be a pretty good fishing ground. We are treating this as a simple case of illegal fishing," a Coastguard official said.

A total of 34 crew members, including the captains, and the ships will be brought to Japan as early as Saturday evening, the Coastguard said.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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